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‘Ethical sex-ploration’ and two other trends that Bumble predicts will shape our dating lives in 2023

When it comes to dating, the devil—aka that supposed ‘pro-surfer’ who chatted to you for weeks, met your mum over FaceTime, and then ditched midway through a round of appetisers—works hard, but Bumble works harder. The year is almost over, and while questionable online habits such as winter coating and reverse catfishing lay to waste in the graveyard of 2022, a new horizon is approaching, filled to the brim with fresh dating trends geared towards us, the most chaotic yet purposeful and diverse cohort to date: gen Z.

Bumble gathered this data by conducting internal polling from 12 October to 1 November 2022 using a sample of 14,300 users from around the world.

So, with the women-first dating app’s forecasts fresh and warm in my hands, let me take you on a journey to explore and explain three of the most gen Z-orientated trends set to dominate our romantic lives in 2023.

1. Ethical sex-ploration

Bumble has an extensive history of championing progressive and healthy habits when it comes to our swiping and liking habits. Both its zero-tolerance for ghosting as well as its participation in the fight against cyberflashing clearly shines a light on the company prioritising the promotion of constructive and safe online connections.

This latest trend is no different. SCREENSHOT was lucky enough to sneak a peak, and when we heard about ‘Ethical sex-ploration’, our ears pricked up. As Bumble explains, “The way that we are talking, thinking about, and having sex is changing.” According to the app’s data, 42 per cent of us are approaching sex, intimacy, and dating in an open and exploratory way, and sex is no longer taboo. In fact, more than half of the daters surveyed agreed that it’s important to discuss sexual wants and needs early on in a relationship.

Over the past year, 20 per cent have explored their sexuality more, and 14 per cent are considering a non-monogamous relationship. It’s true that gen Z is the queerest generation yet—according to LGBTQIA-focused publication Them, the current self-diagnosing TikTok scrollers and Y2K obsessives are inherently far more comfortable exploring their sexualities and gender than previous groups. Surveys have recently shown that 15.9 per cent of gen Zers would describe themselves as queer or transgender.

Bumble has spotted a clear shift among young daters who are seeking the same sexual diversity and inclusion that they see in the world, reflected in the apps they use to find meaningful romantic connections. Relationship practices such as polyamory or solo polyamory have gained massive traction among young adults who’ve begun to seek partnerships outside of the binary monogamous format.

This diversity also includes people who aren’t seeking sex, which is an equally valid path to follow. Bumble also told us that from the data it has analysed, 34 per cent people are not currently having sex and are completely okay with it.

2. Dating Renaissance

First time dating app users—this one’s for you. Some may glance at the name of this 2023 trend and picture a slideshow of prospective partners donning corsets, puffed sleeves, feathers and ruffles. However, this particular renaissance is far more exciting and involves far less fanciful clothing.

Bumble’s data has picked up a rather interesting pattern, the fact that 39 per cent of the users on the popular app have ended a marriage or serious relationship in the last two years. It seems these newly singles are jumping into their second chapter with 36 per cent reportedly using dating apps for the first time.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a slump, still longingly holding onto photo booth reels and that one shared jumper, push away the kleenex and head over to a dating app which might help you pour some spice back into your life. Oh, and while scrolling, why not also fall back in love with Beyoncé’s magnetic house album, Renaissance.

Diving head first into these apps can be intimidating, so make sure to also take your time navigating these deep waters—and remember, not all fish are sharks! Although, you can always keep guardrailing (another one of the company’s 2023 trends) in mind, which states that establishing regular emotional boundaries should always be the top priority.

On Bumble, 85 per cent of users are looking for a long term relationship, so if you’re just hunting for a casual thing, maybe head elsewhere.

3. New Year, New Me(n)

Gen Zers are praised by some and criticised by others (boomers) for their relentless pursuit of diversity, inclusion and freedom of expression. We’re unwavering in our fight for progressive politics and we’re not shy about it—not very snowflake of us, hm? Well, it would make sense then that gen Zers who are romantically or sexually interested in men are looking for shared perspectives. And it turns out, they might be in luck.

Bumble’s third forecasted dating trend is ‘New Year, New Me(n)’. According to the app, conversations about gender norms and expectations have been front and centre. Over the last year, 74 per cent of men say they have examined their behaviour more than ever and have a clearer understanding of toxic masculinity and what is not acceptable.

It should be noted that there have been various debates about the validity of toxic masculinity and whether or not as a concept it actually helps to educate boys and men. The Atlantic, for example, noted in 2019: “The concept of toxic masculinity encourages an assumption that the causes of male violence and other social problems are the same everywhere, and therefore, that the solutions are the same as well. While themes of violence, entitlement, and sexism recur across communities, they show up differently in different places.” 

This comment encourages us to consider some of the nuances when it comes to tackling these issues—maybe dating apps are a good place to start? Bumble has identified a clear positive shift among male users of its app. Defying traditional romantic norms has an abundance of benefits for all those involved, from avoiding awkward conversations to preventing gender-based violence.

From surveying its users, the app found that more than 52 per cent are actively challenging stereotypes that suggest that men should not show emotions. On top of that, 38 per cent now speak more openly about their emotions with their male friends, and 49 per cent of men agree that breaking gender roles in dating and relationships is beneficial for them too.

And with so many more men taking the time to be proactive and prioritise relearning when it comes to these societal issues, maybe users could also partake in another popular dating forecast, ‘Open Casting’. Ditch the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ taglines and see what else is out there, you might surprise yourself.

So, there we have it, Bumble has bequeathed us with some of the freshest dating trends which could even persuade the most TikTok-obsessed gen Zer to shift their interest from golden retriever content to finding love online.

Dating app Bumble wants to criminalise cyberflashing in England and Wales

In 2019, Texas authorities teamed up with the Austin-based dating app Bumble to crack down on cyberflashing—the act of sending sexually explicit material online without consent. At the time, several researches revealed how women encountered sexual harassment in the cyberspace at much higher rates than men. In order to tackle these shocking statistics, Texas actually passed a law—surprising because the state doesn’t exactly have the best track record—making electronic transmissions of explicit material a Class C misdemeanour, with a fine of up to $500 if it was non-consensual.

Although the law currently applies to text messages, email, dating apps and social media in the state, statistics have shown little to no improvement in the issue worldwide. Now, Bumble wants to change that—starting by criminalising the act in England and Wales with the help of a dedicated campaign dubbed #DigitalFlashingIsFlashing.

According to a new research carried out by the dating app, 48 per cent of women aged 18 to 24—out of the 1,793 respondents based in England or Wales—had received an explicit, non-consensual photo over the last year alone. 59 per cent of them admitted to losing their trust in other internet users afterward, while one in four felt violated in the process. Interviewing nearly 100 women about their experience with cyberflashing, journalist Sophie Gallagher also found that one in four women believe that the number of incidents have increased during the pandemic.

“The evidence clearly shows that such online sexual violence does not sit in a separate arena to its offline equivalents,” she said in an interview with Mashable, adding how the issue exists on a spectrum of harm. The survey by Bumble additionally states that 95 per cent of women under the age of 44 believe more needs to be done in order to tackle the non-consensual proliferation of such material.

In the UK, cyberflashing has been widely reported since 2015, when the British Transport Police opened its first investigation on unsolicited AirDropped images. Since the recipient did not ‘accept’ the photographs, there was no digital evidence to work with and the report was recorded as intelligence. This continues to be the case for many. In fact, cyberflashing is now normalised in the country, with one in three women in the UK stating that it is just “part and parcel” of online behaviours today.

On the other hand, Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, is surprised we’re still failing to protect women in online spaces in an age synonymous with space-age developments. “Cyberflashing is a relentless, everyday form of harassment that causes victims—predominantly women—to feel distressed, violated and vulnerable on the internet as a whole,” she said in a press release, highlighting the absence of laws needed for accountability. “This issue is bigger than just one company, and we cannot do this alone. We need governments to take action to criminalise cyberflashing and enforce what is already a real-world law in the online world.”

Bumble’s #DigitalFlashingIsFlashing campaign hence calls on the UK government to acknowledge this necessity, thereby bringing England and Wales in line with Scotland—where the act has been criminalised for over a decade. The app also plans to hold cross-party parliamentary consultations alongside UN Women, the United Nations’ gender equality arm, to galvanise support from members of the parliament in the UK.

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This is also not the first time Bumble has taken a stand against cyberflashing. In 2019, the app introduced a feature called ‘Private Detector’ that leverages AI to automatically detect and blur unsolicited nude images. It then alerts the recipient—who can either choose to view, delete or report the image. Although victims of cyberflashing are not the subject of the picture or video footage in question, they are the recipient. The explicit material is also not required to be of the sender’s genitals for them to be found guilty of the act.

According to The Week, victims of cyberflashing often do not know the identity of the sender, although the harmful act can sometimes be carried out by people known to them. Such content is additionally sent via peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms like AirDrop rather than by email or the internet—which gives the recipient the two-fold threat of a sender who is not only anonymous but also in close proximity to their area of residence.

“We must understand that cyberflashing is not a small act, it is a form of sexual intimidation that can have devastating impacts on women and young girls,” said Professor Clare McGlynn QC from Durham University. “In essence, cyberflashing is a sexual violation infringing women’s sexual autonomy, privacy, and their right to live life free from harassment.” According to the expert, what’s particularly concerning is the fundamental lack of consent and the intrusive way these images are typically sent. “For some women, cyberflashing is worse than being flashed in the street—with the offender unknown, no one seeing what is happening, and it feeling like an invasion into the very personal space of your phone which is impossible to ignore or forget.”

If flashing wouldn’t fly on the street—or at the office, or in the classroom—it shouldn’t be tolerated in your inbox. With Bumble currently advocating for similar laws in California and New York, you can share your experiences of cyberflashing using the dedicated hashtag #DigitalFlashingIsFlashing. Until then I’m looking at you, creepshots. You’re undoubtedly up next.